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Brazil Freezes Accounts of Ex-President Silva in Graft Case

FILE - In this July 13, 2017, photo, former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva prepares to speak to the press and supporters at the headquarters of the Worker's Party, in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Brazil's central bank has frozen four bank accounts belonging to ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva due to his recent conviction on corruption charges, the federal judge overseeing the case said Wednesday.

The assets in question amount to more than 600,000 Brazilian reals ($190,000), according to the office of Sergio Moro, who last week sentenced Silva to 9 years in prison in connection with a sprawling graft probe involving state-run oil giant Petrobras.

Moro also barred the ex-president from using three apartments, a piece of land and two cars linked to him. None can be sold until there is a final ruling on the case.

Silva denies wrongdoing

A spokesman for Silva, who denies any wrongdoing and remains free pending an appeal, confirmed the assets were frozen but did not comment further.

His defense has called the graft conviction politically motivated and a ploy to sideline Silva, widely considered a front-runner for next year's presidential election.

Moro said in his ruling that he requested the freezing of up to 10 million Brazilian reals, but the bank said it only found what was in the four accounts.

“It was not possible to trace the rest of the bribes paid in connection with the corruption at Petrobras,” Moro wrote. “It is possible it has been used to illegally finance electoral campaigns.”

Apartment seized

Last week the judge also seized a beachfront apartment in the city of Guaruja, Sao Paulo state, that is the centerpiece of the corruption and money laundering case against Silva. The apartment is valued at about 2.2 million Brazilian reals ($700,000), according to investigators.

Moro, who is hailed as an anti-corruption hero by supporters and loathed as a zealot by detractors, said construction company OAS promised to give the apartment to Silva as a bribe for three contracts with Petrobras.

Silva says the apartment was never his and he and his wife only visited once before declining to buy it.